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Law Hum Behav. 2008 Feb;32(1):78-91. Epub 2007 Jun 2.

Addressing gaps in the maturity of judgment literature: age differences and delinquency.

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  • 1Psychology, University of New Hampshire, Conant Hall, 10 Library Way, Durham, NH 03824, USA.


Over the past decade, a majority of states have legislated to expand their capacity to try adolescents as adults [Griffin (2003). Trying and sentencing juveniles as adults: An analysis of state transfer and blended sentencing laws. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice]. In response, researchers have investigated factors that may affect adolescent culpability [Steinberg and Scott (Am Psychol 58(12):1009-1018, 2003)]. Research on immature judgment posits that psychosocial influences on adolescent decision processes results in reduced criminal responsibility [Cauffman and Steinberg (Behav Sci Law 18(6):741-760, 2000); Scott, Reppucci, and Woolard (Law Hum Behav 19(3):221-244, 1995); Steinberg and Cauffman (Law Hum Behav 20(3):249-272, 1996)]. The current study utilizes hypothetical vignettes and standardized measures of maturity of judgment (responsibility, temperance, and perspective) to examine gaps in previous maturity of judgment findings (Cauffman and Steinberg 2000). This work suggests that adolescents (ages 14-17) display less responsibility and perspective relative to college students (ages 18-21), young-adults (ages 22-27), and adults (ages 28-40). Further, this research finds no maturity of judgment differences between delinquent and non-delinquent youth, but does find significant maturity of judgment differences between high and low delinquency male youth. Finally, results show that maturity of judgment predicts self-reported delinquency beyond the contributions of age, gender, race, education level, SES, and antisocial decision making. Implications for the juvenile justice system are discussed.

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